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Codex Delays Processed Cheese and Mozzarella Debates, Advances Permeate Standard

Jul 06, 2016

IDFA and U.S. processed cheese makers received a welcome decision last week from the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Meeting in Rome for the 39th annual session of the Commission, the country delegates decided to delay until next year’s session what was sure to be a contentious debate on the fate of Codex work on a processed cheese standard. The decision followed a strong recommendation from the Codex Executive Committee, which met the week prior, that the work be discontinued due to the clear lack of consensus around several key provisions, including minimum cheese content. The Executive Committee had also suggested that countries in favor of a standard could propose re-initiation of work in the future if they find a feasible solution that could garner broad consensus among Codex members.

IDFA and the U.S. dairy industry have long opposed various drafts of the standard, which have been in the works for many years. IDFA is concerned that the current proposed standard would broaden the definition of “processed cheese” to include products with far less real cheese content than U.S.-made products, which could potentially mislead consumers.

The decision to delay discussion defers the debate until next year, but it also freezes the current draft within the Codex standard development process and halts all formal work by Codex members on the standard until a decision is taken on whether or not to follow the Executive Committee’s advice.

“Although we would have preferred that a decision to discontinue work would have been taken this year, this outcome has its benefits, from our perspective,” said John Allan, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards, who attended the meeting. “Now it’s incumbent on those who support having a standard to come forward with a workable solution, though we believe there is little chance of this happening. After all, Codex has dealt with these issues for over two decades now.” 

Additives for Mozzarella and Permeate Powders

The Commission considered two other issues of importance to dairy. As with processed cheese, members pushed back to next year the discussion on the use of anti-caking agents and preservatives with high-moisture mozzarella, dodging another contentious debate, at least until next year.  Members agreed with little discussion, however, to advance the proposed draft Standard for Dairy Permeate Powders, which includes descriptions and specifications for milk and whey permeate powders, to Step 6. IDFA supports both of these actions.

Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president, also attended the general assembly meeting.

To learn more about Codex and IDFA’s role, read the Dairy Foods magazine column by Hough, “Why Codex matters to U.S. dairy processors.”

For more information, contact Allan at

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